Located in downtown Asheville, the front of The LAB is rather unassuming. A few metal tables on its covered patio and a small sign reading “The LAB” are all that mark this fantastic restaurant. However easy it is to miss visually, the amazing smells wafting from their kitchen are hard to walk past.
Even at lunch, when Bryan and I went, there are people at the heavy wooden bar sipping on the house brewed beers. Of course, plenty of folks were enjoying the delicious fare, which can best be described as fresh, local ingredients applied to traditional world cuisine. The decor, industrial chic, gives a warmth to this home-grown Asheville restaurant.
As cool as the restaurant feels, the menu absolutely lives up to the vibe. Bryan and I shared a baked brie appetizer made with goat brie from a local cheese-maker, The Looking Glass Creamery. The accoutrements to the dish included candied papaya and hazelnut brittle, neither of which either of us had ever tasted before. We also had their jerked frog legs. Now, I’ll be honest and tell you that before The LAB, I thought I hated frog legs. I’d had them before, in a well-known Charleston restaurant, where I’m sure they were well-prepared. Unfortunately, the flavor was underwhelming for me. However, The LAB had cooked theirs absolutely perfectly, rendering tender frog legs, and they were seasoned deliciously. I was impressed. The appetizers, fortunately, were indicative of their food philosophy: master the rules, and then break them.
The meal continued beautifully. I had North Carolina mountain trout battered in their house brewed Pale Ale, served in warm corn tortillas, and topped with a jicama slaw. In case I needed more heat, I was provided two options: ground, fresh jalapeño served in half a jalapeño or a smoky chipotle sauce, made in house. Both were delicious. Bryan had their duck confit, which he says was seasoned better than any he’s ever had (and he’s quite the connoisseur). I must say, both entrees were fantastic.
We also made sure to sample all the beers they brew, made even cooler by the fact that we could watch them being brewed. They were wonderful. I’m typically a wheat beer drinker, and their white ale was fantastic. Bryan loved their Oktoberfest, and we both agreed that their stout was delicious. Not that there was a bad beer on the menu, of course: we finished the sampler with no problem.
Unfortunately, because of our dedication to a full report on their infamous beers, we were too full to try any of their desserts, but they looked divine. I would absolutely recommend checking out The LAB at the first chance you get!